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It takes big balls to release a movie like Good Boys in today’s PC environment.

Kids in the film swear like sailors, unknowingly sniff anal beads and run across busy highways without looking both ways. It might just be the all-time cinematic winner for child-delivered profanity, topping the likes of the original The Bad News Bears.

Actually, I should delete the word “might”: It’s the winner for sure.

Jacob Tremblay, the cute little dude from Room, goes full stank-mouth mode as Max. He’s a member of the Beanbag Boys (they call themselves that because, well, they have beanbags), along with pals Lucas (a scene-stealing Keith L. Williams) and Thor (the wildly funny Brady Noon). Their junior-high social activities consist of bike rides and card games—but things are taken up a notch when they are invited to a party that will include, gasp, a kissing game.

The trouble then begins, involving the destruction of a drone owned by Max’s dad (Will Forte); a predicament that involves a stash of Ecstasy pills; and two older, meaner girls, Hannah and Lily (Molly Gordon and Midori Francis). The goal—to reach the kissing party unscathed, with a bottle of beer so that they look cool—is blocked by much tween drama.

This film announces it’s not playing around right away, with the Beanbag Boys unleashing a torrent of obscenities showing they’ve been familiar with these words for at least a couple of years. As a former adolescent, I can attest to this reality: Kids do curse, and they love to curse. Deal with it.

Hearing kids talk like this in an American movie is oddly refreshing. It’s also laugh-out-loud funny to hear these words coming out of Tremblay’s cherubic face. As the title of the movie implies, these are good boys, even though they curse like Samuel L. Jackson in a Tarantino movie. They have dirty mouths, but they are anti-drug and anti-bullying—so much so that the film belabors those points a little too much and too obviously.

It’s no big surprise that Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the men behind Superbad, had a hand in producing this. The plot is very similar; in fact, Good Boys could almost qualify as a Superbad prequel or reboot, since the plot focuses on three kids trying to get to a party with alcohol in tow while cursing a lot. Jonah Hill’s Superbad kid kept getting hit by cars; Lucas also suffers grave, humorously depicted injuries along the way. It’s the same movie. It’s funny as hell, but it’s the same movie, just set in junior high rather than high school.

Director Gene Stupnitsky, making his feature debut, gets a gold star for getting kids to say this stuff with a straight face. (Lordy, there must’ve been a lot of takes.) The film sometimes feels a bit hollow, as if its only reason for existing is to show kids cursing a lot. Still, hearing kids curse a lot is hilarious.

Tremblay, Williams and Noon deserve a lot of credit for making this all so much fun. Tremblay, who has the most serious acting chops of the trio, is a natural, and he provides a great anchor for the madness. Williams is, at times, heartbreakingly sweet, especially when his character is dealing with the breakup of his family. Noon brings a pretty stellar singing voice to the proceedings, and it is put to good use on a rousing Foreigner track.

The summer needed a big blast of funny stupidity, and Good Boys provides it. It’s ripe for a sequel, where these kids are freshmen in high school. I think that premise is going to get the greenlight here real soon—and maybe McLovin will make a cameo.

Good Boys is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld allegedly launched their professional comedy careers during the same exact week in the 1970s. Now we get to watch two of the funniest people on the planet go out for a cup of coffee—and it’s totally hysterical.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is really growing on me, and its 11th season might be its best yet. Murphy, Martin Short, Seth Rogen and Matthew Broderick are among the guests, and every episode is highly watchable.

The indisputable highlight is Murphy, who, once again, teases that he will do standup comedy again someday. If he doesn’t, taking a seat in a car next to Seinfeld is an adequate substitute—because he kills on this show. He does enough routines for a good Murphy special, including a remembrance of a visit to Michael Jackson’s house—including an encounter with a progressively unruly Bubbles the Chimp. He also uncorks his already-infamous Tracy Morgan impersonation. The man is still hilarious.

Second place goes to Broderick, who not only goes out for coffee, but stops by Citi Field (home of the New York Mets) for a baseball fantasy sequence. Both of these guys look like naturals in caps and jerseys.

As for Murphy doing standup … there’s some buzz that he’s wrapping up a megadeal with Netflix to do just that. Oh please, please, please let it be true.

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is now streaming on Netflix.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

Almost a quarter-decade ago, The American President came out; it’s a cutesy romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas as a Bill Clinton-like president and Annette Bening as the lady he wants to date. America swooned, but I threw up. I hated it.

Now, in the Trump era, we get Long Shot, a different twist on a high-profile politician dating a commoner. This time out, Charlize Theron stars as Charlotte Field, secretary of state and potential presidential candidate. Her eventual romantic interest is Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), a journalist-turned-speech writer who, not surprisingly, smokes lots of weed.

Long Shot is better than The American President. It’s a lot better than The American President.

Flarsky is a dweeby, wind-breaker-wearing columnist whose alternative-weekly newspaper is sold to a conservative media mogul (an unrecognizable Andy Serkis). He quits his job and finds himself attending a high-society party featuring Charlotte and Boyz II Men along with his best pal, Lance (O’Shea Jackson Jr., showing he’s a lot funnier than his reasonably funny dad, Ice Cube).

It turns out that Fred knows Charlotte; she was a neighbor when he was a kid, and she (being three years older) baby-sat him. They get reacquainted; Fred gets a job as her speech writer; one thing leads to another; and there you have it—one of the year’s most unlikely rom-com pairings. It works swimmingly, because Theron and Rogen have serious onscreen chemistry.

Before you go squawking that a woman of Theron’s caliber would never date a Rogen-type in real life, I’d like to point out that Theron seriously dated the scrunchy-faced Sean Penn. Seth Rogen kicks Sean Penn’s ass in many categories, including looks. Just saying.

Whatever you may think of this pairing before you see the movie, trust me: Theron and Rogen pull it off. Their courtship is funny, awkward, hilariously drug-laced and utterly convincing. There are many fantasy elements to this movie, but most of those play out on the political side. As for the romance part, that’s the most realistic thing happening in this film. Charlotte likes to party, and much of the Fred character is modeled after Rogen—and Rogen is the king of partying. It’s a good match.

The political stuff is hyper-satire, with Bob Odenkirk scoring big points as the former TV star-turned-president who won’t be seeking re-election, because he wants to make the big leap into film. (He idolizes Woody Harrelson.) Oh, if only this were this the case in 2020 …

Long Shot is directed by real-life Rogen buddy Jonathan Levine. (The two worked together on 50/50 and The Night Before.) Levine proves to be the right choice to pull off the wacky screenplay by Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah, a script that gives equal time to environmental issues and accidentally jacking off into one’s beard (a moment reminiscent of There’s Something About Mary). It’s a daring script that takes chances, like a nuclear-bomb thriller portion. Not all of the jokes hit the mark, but enough do.

Theron is one of the best actresses at work today, and she’s also one of the funniest. (See her stint on Arrested Development for further evidence.) She’s actually funnier than Rogen in this movie. That’s not a dig on Rogen; he’s funny, but Theron wins the funny war in Long Shot. As for Jackson, his Lance deserves his own spinoff movie.

Sadly, Long Shot got its clock cleaned at the box office by a little movie called Avengers: Endgame. It looks like America isn’t convinced it needs to see Theron and Rogen making out while high on molly. Whatever. If you are skipping this because you think the pairing looks ridiculous, know that it is indeed a ridiculous movie—but the pairing is the least-ridiculous thing about it. They are a good onscreen couple. I hope they work together again, and I hope Long Shot finds life in the future on streaming platforms.

Long Shot is now playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

If you love all kinds of movies, and you haven’t yet seen The Room, you really need to change that.

Written, directed by and starring the legendary Tommy Wiseau, it’s possibly the greatest bad movie ever made. It’s so great in its badness, the Rifftrax episode (the movie-bashing bastard stepchild of Mystery Science Theater 3000) with the movie is actually annoying. You just want Mike Nelson and friends to shut up and let you enjoy the pure experience of The Room. No riff is funnier than what is happening in the actual movie.

James Franco pays tribute to Tommy Wiseau with The Disaster Artist in much the same way Tim Burton glorified shlockmeister Ed Wood more than 20 years ago. Franco directs and stars as Tommy, complete with the awesome long vampire black hair and chipmunk cheeks that comprise “the Wiseau.” He also nails the Wiseau mystery accent. (While his IMDb profile says he was born in 1955 and comes from Poland, nobody seems to really know Wiseau’s true background.)

For the first time in a movie, Franco co-stars with brother Dave, who gets one of his best roles yet as the legendarily bad Greg Sestero, friend to Tommy and co-star in The Room. The film starts in San Francisco, with Greg struggling to remember lines for Waiting for Godot in a savagely bad acting class. Strange classmate Tommy lumbers onto the stage and butchers a scene from A Streetcar Named Desire—and a friendship is born. The two agree to work on scenes together, bond in their lousiness and, thanks to Wiseau’s strange apparent wealth, move to Los Angeles to fulfill their dreams to become actors.

After a stretch of unsuccessful auditions, the two decide to make their own movie—and this is where the film really takes off. Fans of The Room will rejoice in hilarious recreations of iconic The Room moments such as, “You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!’ and “Oh, hi Mark!”

The supporting cast includes Franco pal Seth Rogen as cranky script supervisor Sandy; Zac Efron as the actor who portrayed the oddly named Chris-R in The Room; and Ari Graynor as the actress who brought the majestic Lisa, Tommy’s onscreen sweetheart, to life. Josh Hutcherson plays the actor who would be Denny, perhaps the most unintentionally frightening character in Wiseau’s movie. Sharon Stone, Hannibal Buress, Melanie Griffith and Randall Park also appear.

The Disaster Artist is actually based on the book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside ‘The Room,’ the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made, co-written by Sestero, and the film is heartwarming for multiple reasons. It’s fun to see a misfit make it, even though it’s in a roundabout sort of way, and it’s fun to see that accomplishment depicted by the Franco brothers. It’s about time these guys did something together. Perhaps it’s the first of many future collaborations.

When Franco’s Wiseau watches the final cut of The Room with a rambunctious crowd that loves/hates his movie, Franco delivers some of the best acting of his career—on multiple levels. On the screen in ‘The Room,’ he’s doing a spot-on impersonation of Wiseau, with an odd accent, bizarre facial expressions and a horrific writhing, naked ass during an exquisitely bad sex scene. In the audience, Wiseau sheds tears as everybody around him mocks his movie. Franco succeeds in making us feel terrible for the guy.

That sadness quickly disappears, replaced by euphoria as the crowd cheers his trash masterpiece—and Wiseau embraces the notoriety. By the time the film wraps, it hits you that Franco has somehow made one of the better “feel good” movies of the year.

Make sure to stay for the credits, where Franco plays his re-creations of scenes from The Room next to Wiseau’s originals. The scenes sync up almost perfectly, and are so good that I often found myself confused regarding which was which. Wiseau himself shows up after the credits for what turns out to be the movie’s best cameo.

The Disaster Artist is now playing at the Century Theatres at The River and XD (71800 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage; 760-836-1940) and the Century La Quinta and XD (46800 Washington St., La Quinta; 760-771-5682).

Published in Reviews

I watch Donnie Darko every few years. It’s one of those great weird movies in which new things hit you each time you see it.

It’s also fun to see how young Jake Gyllenhaal was in this 2001 film. He was just a lil’ baby.

My discovery with this viewing: I had forgotten Seth Rogen is in this movie. He plays a bully who harasses Gretchen (Jena Malone). Also, I’m not sure I’d watched it since Patrick Swayze passed away. The film is just a little bit darker knowing the former Outsider is gone.

This new limited edition includes a director’s cut, as well as the original version. Honestly, I can’t remember whether I’d watched the director’s cut before; the version does not seem all that different, other than it’s about 15 minutes longer. I did see a few scenes that struck me as new.

Mary McDonnell plays one of the all-time-great screen moms here, as she’s bemused by all that’s going on—including casually smoking a cigarette after a jet engine lands on her house.

And, of course … Sparkle Motion.

This is a good time-travel film that stands the test of time.

Special Features: As mentioned before, this new four-disc limited edition comes with both versions of the film, along with commentaries, including one with Kevin Smith. OK, now I remember: I have seen the director’s cut before. There are tons of deleted scenes and docs, as well as a Q&A with director Richard Kelly.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

There’s been too much “more of the same” at theaters this summer. Flat big-budget blockbusters and sequels without an ounce of creativity or originality keep being churned out of the Hollywood industrial complex, delivering an astounding amount of expensive, vapid horse shit.

Sausage Party, the animated hellcat from writer-producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, is the first big studio film in a long time that is screaming with originality. It’s a profanity-laden, blasphemous middle finger to the movie-making establishment that thinks it’s OK to turn out sequels and comic-book movies that suck—because the studios know people will shell out for them anyway. Sausage Party couldn’t be more fun, and it’s a film like nothing you’ve seen before.

In a sunny supermarket, a bunch of vegetables, hot dogs and buns wake up and sing a happy song, convinced that today will be the day they are chosen by humans to enter the Great Beyond—the world on the other side of those automatic sliding doors.

Frank (the voice of Rogen), an optimistic hot dog with teeth like Seth Rogen, longs for the moment he can leave his packaging and “fill” his sweetheart, a bun named Brenda (Kristen Wiig). That moment seems to be imminent when they are selected and placed in a cart—but things quickly go awry: Frank and Brenda are left behind on the supermarket floor, while their friends soon find out that things in the Great Beyond are far from great.

On top of being super-profane, Sausage Party is incredibly violent, with various food things and condiments suffering unthinkable, heinous fates. (What happens to heads of lettuce and baby carrots is particularly nightmarish.) Rogen and Goldberg have found themselves a little loophole: The main characters aren’t humans or animals, allowing for nonstop carnage within the confines of an R rating.

That loophole also allows for a food orgy that would be too much for your average porno, yet there it is—a bunch of characters openly fornicating in just about every way possible on a big screen playing next door to Finding Dory.

If you’re a parent out there who takes kids to the movies simply based on the poster, you are in for the shock of your life. However, the first word in this movie is actually “shit,” so you should know early on that the wrong entertainment has been chosen for the day.  (Unless, of course, you and your kids are truly twisted, in which case … have at it!)

Other exquisite touches include a main villain that is a total douche … and by total douche, I mean he’s actually a douche, voiced by Nick Kroll. He’s also a leaky douche, so his thing is to suck replenishing juices out of his prey—sometimes in a way that is most provocative.

James Franco is on hand as the voice of a druggie experimenting with bath salts, while Edward Norton voices Sammy Bagel Jr., a bagel who plays a pivotal, perverted part in that food orgy. Rogen/Goldberg mainstays like Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Bill Hader, Michael Cera, David Krumholtz and Danny McBride all have roles, and they all contribute to make this the most outrageously insane Hollywood comedy since, well, their own This Is the End (2013).

What makes Sausage Party a cut above your average stoner-movie-full-of-food-items-screwing-and-being-murdered is that it also takes some smart swipes at organized religion and politics. Yes, this movie makes you think—a lot more than you would expect from a movie that features a taco going down on a hotdog bun.

I heard Rogen on The Howard Stern Show saying he thinks Sausage Party could be a franchise ripe for sequels. Just how he thinks he can top this madness is beyond comprehension … but I will certainly be in line to find out when he tries.

Sausage Party is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

The first half of Seth Rogen sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is as funny and snappy as the first movie—but the film loses its way a bit by the time credits roll. Still, if you are looking at laughs per dollar, Rogen and Zac Efron deliver your money’s worth.

The spin this time out has a sorority led by Shelby (Chloë Grace Moretz) moving in next door to the Radners (Rogen and Rose Byrne). Shelby is determined to party like a fraternity does, and this leads to a semi-depressed Teddy (Efron) coming on as the sorority’s mentor. This restarts Teddy’s war with the Radners—which is bad timing, because their house is in escrow. It’s during this stage of the film when it is at its nastiest and its best.

When Teddy joins forces with the Radners to destroy the sorority, things get a little misguided. The film has some of the funniest dialogue of 2016 (“Sometimes you have to suck a bunch of dicks to find out you don’t like sucking dicks”), and I’m always down for Rogen’s humor. Byrne is an undervalued comic actress, and Moretz fits right into the stoner mode. Efron gets the biggest laughs in the movie, even when it starts to get a little too busy.

A gag involving those ever-pesky airbags is killer-funny, as is another visit with the dean (Lisa Kudrow). As sequels go, this isn’t great, but it’s a worthy installment.

Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Jack Black returns as the voice of Po in this decent second sequel in the saga of the Panda warrior and his warrior cronies.

This time out, Po encounters his long-lost dad, Li (the warm growl of Bryan Cranston), who takes him to the land of pandas so that he can learn the powers of his chi. An advancement in his warrior techniques is absolutely essential, because the lands are being threatened by a spirit-realm warrior named Kai (J.K. Simmons, voicing some sort of super-muscular yak-type thing).

The stuff with Po and Li is cute; the added element of Po’s adopted dad (James Hong) being a little jealous is sweet. There’s a cool psychedelic look at times, and the animated series continues to impress on artistic levels.

However, the story feels a bit like a repeat of the previous two. That’s OK, but doesn’t necessarily place this chapter high on the originality scale.

I’ll say this for the film: With a voice cast that includes Black, Cranston, Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Seth Rogen, Kate Hudson, David Cross, Jackie Chan and Angelina Jolie, Kung Fu Panda 3 boasts one of history’s all-time-great lineups (as far as animated movies are concerned). This one is good enough to ensure there will be more chapters to come.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

Seth Rogen might just win the award for All-Time-Great Drug-Tripping Performance in The Night Before, a very funny holiday film from director Jonathan Levine.

Rogen and Anthony Mackie play Isaac and Chris, best friends to Ethan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who lost his parents when he was young. Since the death of Ethan’s parents, the three have gathered every Christmas Eve to celebrate—in rambunctious fashion.

In what is supposed to be their final Christmas Eve journey—Isaac’s wife is having a baby, and Chris is a famous football player—Ethan scores tickets to the wildest party of the year. Rogen spends the majority of the film tripping balls after consuming mushrooms, pot and cocaine (gifts from the wife); he should get some sort of drug-performance Oscar for what he does in this movie.

Michael Shannon shows up as one of the strangest drug-dealers in cinema history; lord knows there have been some strange ones. However, the film gives us the greatest gift of all with Lizzy Caplan as Ethan’s love interest; let’s face it: She’s awesome. Miley Cyrus makes a fun cameo as herself, while somebody else I shall not reveal makes a surprise appearance and steals some scenes.

This one is a nice addition to the holiday movie canon, and Rogen solidifies himself as a stoner hero.

The Night Before is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

I can’t say whether Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Steve Jobs in Danny Boyle’s new firecracker of a movie is accurate; I didn’t know the guy. I can say that the performance is, dramatically, one of the best things you will see in cinemas this year.

Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by the ever-reliable Boyle (127 Hours, Sunshine), plays out in three parts: Apart from a few flashbacks, we see Jobs backstage at three significant product launches during his career. The film is expertly staged, playing out like the most entertaining and brutal of Shakespearean dramas.

As Jobs ties his bowtie and prepares to launch the Macintosh in 1984, his personal life is messing with his mojo. Estranged lover Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston) is distressed over the paltry sum Jobs pays her and their alleged daughter, Lisa (Makenzie Moss), in child support. Jobs is worth millions, but offers only hundreds per month—because he doubts his being the father.

Chrisann has some good arguments. A paternity test puts the likelihood of Jobs being the dad at more than 94 percent, and Lisa looks an awfully lot like him. This is no matter to Jobs, who spends years denying fatherhood—while reluctantly turning over more than the court-mandated amount of cash, because part of him really likes Lisa. He even names a computer after her.

We see Steve Jobs at his very worst, a man so obsessed with his company’s new gadgets that he won’t face the reality of his fatherly duties. Lisa, portrayed at different ages by Moss (6), Ripley Sobo (9) and a show-stopping Perla Haney-Jardine (19), is a girl any dad would be proud of—but Jobs can’t really be bothered. He has goofy-looking computers to sell.

While Jobs won’t be a dad to his daughter, he tries to be one to Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), the engineer who actually built the board that launched Apple computers. Mind you, Jobs isn’t a good father figure. While he claims he will always protect and nurture Wozniak, he fails to come through on some key matters, including the acknowledgement of Wozniak and his team in the Apple legacy. 

Fassbender’s Jobs is every bit that charming man we saw while he was introducing computers, iPods and iPhones to drooling masses. He had such nice, warm tendencies in public that it was hard to imagine him as a bastard behind the scenes.

Unfortunately, his quick wit and ability to reason are often wielded as weapons against his perceived enemies, whether they be Wozniak, justifiably begging for recognition, or Chrisann, begging for money. As far as this movie is concerned, Jobs was a brilliant but not-so-nice man. In fact, he was a major dickweed.

The major coup is that Fassbender still makes Jobs likable. It’s easy to hate the man’s actions, and it’s also very easy to root for his redemption. Fassbender puts petal to the metal with this performance, and he never lets up.

Say hello to Seth Rogen … actor! In his few pivotal scenes, Rogen breaks hearts as Wozniak, a good natured, well-meaning man who obviously loves and admires Jobs, but can’t fathom his stubbornness. It’s a revelatory performance from a man who usually delivers laughs. This time out, you’ll feel his character’s emotional pain and hurt.

Kate Winslet, even though her accent morphs from time to time, is equally compelling as Jobs’ confidant and mother figure, Joanna Hoffman. It’s an incredible performance. The same can be said for Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, the advertising giant who essentially became Jobs’ boss. That relationship is combustible at times, and Daniels blows up the screen.

Steve Jobs will make you forget Jobs, that other biopic that featured a heavily made-up Ashton Kutcher playing with an iPod. Fassbender and Boyle deliver the kind of movie Jobs deserved—warts and all. It’s a mesmerizing film about a complicated man.

Steve Jobs is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

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